POSTED ON May 3rd, 2020

This is the first time since we have been at Nanny Brow that we have not had guests wandering up through the woodlands to admire the stunning carpet of bluebells that are a feature of this woodland at this time of year. So I thought I would share this blog with you all to brighten our lock down during Coronavirus. Stay home and stay safe.

Bluebells are native to western Europe with the UK being a species stronghold, they are frequently found in ancient woods like those surrounding Nanny Brow. Fishgarth Woods are semi ancient woodlands and the bluebells form a carpet of blue on the woodland floor from the road all the way through the woodland towards Todd Crag signifying that spring has sprung. Their abundance in woodlands is often used to determine the age of a woodland. They also grow along hedgerows and in fields after self seeding.

Many insects reap the benefits of bluebells which flower earlier than many other plants. Woodland butterflies, bees and hoverflies all feed on their nectar. Bees can ‘steal’ the nectar from bluebells by biting a hole in the bottom of the flower, reaching the nectar without the need to pollinate the flower.

folklore tales surrounding bluebells, often involve dark fairy magic. Bluebell woods are believed to be woven with fairy enchantments, used by the fairies to trap humans. Folk law says if you hear a bluebell ring, you will be visited by a bad fairy, and will die not long after or If you are to pick a bluebell you will be led astray by fairies, wandering lost forevermore. 

Other myths surrounding this beautiful flower claim that the bluebell is a symbol of humility, constancy, gratitude and everlasting love. Its claimed “if you turn a bluebell flower inside-out without tearing it, you will win the one you love”, and “if you wear a wreath of bluebells you will only be able to speak the truth”.

Besides bluebells been exceedingly pretty they have been used for a variety of different things throughout history.The sticky sap they produce was used in ancient times to bind the pages of books and glue the feathers onto arrows. In the Elizabethan period the bulbs were crushed to make starch for the ruffs of collars and sleeves. 

In spite of being really pretty all parts of the bluebell plant contain toxic glycosides that are poisonous to humans and animals including dogs, horses and cattle. If you swallow any part of the plant (flowers, leaves or bulb) it causes a lowering of the pulse rate, nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting.  On the positive side the bluebell bulb is known to have a diuretic (increases urination) and styptic (helps to stop bleeding) properties, and research on how the bulb could potentially help fight cancer is ongoing.

As a chid I can remember walking in a woodland near my parents home called Bluebell Woods, I asked while it was called bluebell woods and was told that it used to be covered with really pretty bluebells in the spring but due to people picking them they had been lost. Even today they are  under threat locally from habitat destruction, hybridisation with non-native bluebells and the illegal trade of wild-collected bulbs. Bluebells can take years to recover from the damage caused by trampling, and if their leaves are crushed they can be weakened (as they can no longer photosynthesise).

The bluebell is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). This means digging up the plant or bulb in the countryside is prohibited and landowners are prohibited from removing bluebells from their land to sell. The species was also listed on Schedule 8 of the Act in 1998, which makes trading in wild bluebell bulbs and seeds an offence. This legislation was designed to protect bluebell from unscrupulous bulb collectors who supply garden centres.

So when you walk through Fishgarth Woods please stick to the paths and restrain from picking these beautiful flowers so that future generation can enjoy them as we have already in my life time nearly lost them.

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